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The Hard Stuff: A Joe the Bouncer Thriller

Review

The Hard Stuff: A Joe the Bouncer Thriller

One of my reading joys is the occasional discovery of a new caper novel. This happened in 2018 with the release of THE BOUNCER, in which David Gordon put a new twist or two on the classic crime subgenre. The sophomore entry in this series, THE HARD STUFF, meets and exceeds the standard established by its predecessor by shuffling things around, taking a couple of characters off the board and adding new ones, while setting up a plot or two for further resolution down the road.

THE HARD STUFF features a series of improbable but believable capers connected by the interactions of a group of characters who for the most part are mad, bad and dangerous to know. Joe Brody, aka Joe the Bouncer, is at the tip of the spear, an ex-Black Ops specialist who is bent but not broken by his wartime experiences, which have honed his deadly skill set but have left him psychologically damaged and substance addicted. Joe is publicly employed as a security guard, or bouncer, at Club Rendevous, a striptease establishment in Queens. His actual work, though, is far more interesting.

"It’s a dark book that’s also fun, and it will pick you up and carry you from first page to last, as well as create anticipation for whatever will come next."

As a result of the events that are documented in THE BOUNCER, Joe was elevated by the council of New York’s mob bosses to the position of sheriff. While the mob organizations operate on the wrong side of the law, they are well aware that it is in everyone’s interests to foil any terrorist plot that crosses their path.

The main driver in THE HARD STUFF concerns such a scheme, which involves selling dope for diamonds in order to finance the attack. Joe, who has a mind like a steel trap (as is demonstrated by his extremely literate taste in reading), attempts to thwart the terrorists by stealing some diamonds, trading them to the terrorists for drugs, and then stealing them back while wiping out the terrorists. It’s a little complex, but it sets up a pair of prolonged action scenes, each of which would be worth the price of admission on its own. The same can be said of the book’s introductory movement, during which Joe and a group of cohorts travel into a rural area of New Jersey to violently take care of a bit of unfinished business left over from THE BOUNCER.

In the midst of all of this, Joe finds a way to pick the addict monkey off his back and resolve a couple of other issues as well. The interplay among the other primary and secondary characters provides for action and laughs in equal measure, even as Gordon demonstrates --- once again --- that New York, for all of its gigantic geographic spread and large and varied population demographics, is just one big small town where the degrees of separation are low, if they exist at all. It’s a dark book that’s also fun, and it will pick you up and carry you from first page to last, as well as create anticipation for whatever will come next.

Gordon is The Man. THE HARD STUFF is shot through with an insider’s knowledge of the streets on which it is set, making one wonder how much of the book is true crime described as fiction. The characters and situations you’ll find here will rattle around in your head long after you’ve finished reading. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long for the next installment.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 3, 2019

The Hard Stuff: A Joe the Bouncer Thriller
by David Gordon

  • Publication Date: July 2, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802129560
  • ISBN-13: 9780802129567